Tales of the First Settlers by Jessie Sprague | Chapter 4

Tales of the First Settlers

By Jessie E. Sprague, written in 1925

In the summer of 1857, when the Depot building was nearing completion, before the partitions were put in, a local talent play was given there. The play was "The Lady of Lyons". People of this day, familiar with the nightly marvel of the moving picture, can hardly realize the intense interest and enthusiasm aroused by this first dramatic performance ever given in Brodhead.

Many of the young people had never seen a play before. They walked and drove in from many miles around to witness the great performance. To this day all those who saw it speak of it with enthusiasm. The old Depot was crowded to the doors. The only lights were tallow candles. Undoubtedly the Brodhead Band furnished music. Miss Tena Merrill was the "Lady of Lyons". Mrs. Beck with, then Miss Lou Fisher, played the part of a Duchess. Mrs. "Ally" Ten Eyck (Martha's grandmother) then Miss Amanda Moore, was one of the characters. "Mort" Faust and Norman Hall played the leading men's parts. The country round was scoured for talent.

Louis Napoleon c.1865

It is difficult to put ourselves back into the atmosphere of that time. In Europe, Louis Napoleon yet ruled the Empire of France. In England the Prince Consort, quiet but masterful, was still the power behind Victoria's throne. In Germany, young Otto von Bismarck was just beginning to be recognized as coming man. Here in America the Republic was still an experiment. The Union had not yet proved itself and on every hand was talk of State sovereignty and probable secession.

Otto von Bismarck c.1890

Patriotic feelings ran very high. Horace Greeley's great editorials in the New York Tribune were discussed on every corner. They were as near, in those days, to the final ratification of the Constitution and the inauguration of George Washington, as we are now are to the settlement of Brodhead.

Brodhead was settled almost entirely by native Americans from the eastern States. The adventurous heroic blood of the pioneers ran in their veins. One of the first settlers in Brodhead was a direct descendant of the little Peregrine White, the baby who was born on the Mayflower. Other families were of the Mayflower stock, and most if not all traced their lines back to early colonial settlers. There is no more typically American town anywhere than Brodhead was in in the first three or four decades of its history. Its schools, its churches, its newspapers, its social customs are founded on the bedrock of American ideal.

Mars Matter of Brodhead, daughter of Mr Wales, was a direct descendent of Peregrine White (1620-1704). Peregrine was the first European born in America, having been born upon the Mayflower while docked in the harbour of Massachusetts.

Already the first generation has disappeared. Very few of their direct descendants are left here. But the spirit of the town lives. We can not look back on the gay and dauntless courage of those first citizens without settling ourselves a little more firmly into the harness, determined to carry on, and to prove ourselves, if may be not unworthy of the best traditions of this little pioneer town that is our inheritance.

Train Depot | Brodhead, Wis.